site of two ancient settlements, located on the western edge of the Euphrates River's Tabqa dam reservoir in Syria (36°10′ N, 38°4′ E). One of the settlements was a mound of medium size, Tell Habuba Kabira; the other was a large settlement, about 900 m long, Habuba Kabira South, whose size could only be ascertained from the extent to which sherds were scattered and within which lay a smaller mound (Tell Qannas).

The site was noted in surveys carried out by American and Syrian teams directed by Abdel Kader Rihaoui and Maurits N. van Loon In 1963 and 1964. Tell Habuba Kabira and Habuba Kabira (South) were investigated from 1969 to 1975 by the Deutsche Orient-Gesellschaft, under the direction of Ernst Heinrich and Eva Strommenger; Tell Qannas was excavated by a Belgian mission headed by André Finet. [See Deutsche Orient-Gesellschaft.]

Habuba Kabira (South) is the only large-scale example of Late Uruk residential architecture. [See Uruk-Warka.] The administrative-religious center of the city was hidden in the lower layers of Tell Qannas. The regional administrative center was not in this town, but on a slope of the Jebel ῾Aruda Mountain to the north. There were other contemporary settlements in the vicinity, at Tell Hajj, Tell Hadidi, and Tell Sheikh Ḥassan, the latter on the east bank of the Euphrates and certainly dating back to the Middle Uruk period. [See Hadidi, Tell.] Habuba Kabira (South) existed only for a short time, as is indicated by a maximum of three building levels. Tablets, clay balls with tokens inside, and clay bullae, all with numerical signs, as well as the pottery, point to a date that corresponds to Uruk-Eanna, archaic levels VI–V. The later level of Habuba Kabira (South) has been carbon dated to 3290–2920 BCE and 3030–2910 BCE (calibrated; all dates according to Günter Kohl and Jochen Görsdorf).

Habuba Kabira

HABUBA KABIRA. Plan of the southern gate and houses. (Courtesy Habuba Kabira Expedition, Deutsche Orient-Gesellschaft)

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Habuba Kabira

HABUBA KABIRA. Room with pottery in situ. (Courtesy Habuba Kabira Expedition, Deutsche Orient-Gesellschaft)

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The settlement was a station along the routes from Anatolia and northern Syria to Mesopotamia. It was involved mainly in a long-distance trade. Its role in the local exchange system is not yet clear. The town was obviously deserted peacefully, presumably as the result of a blockade of the trade routes to the south. The main roads in Habuba Kabira (South) followed the contour lines of the bank terrace or were at right angles to them and were equipped with drains. The development of peripheral areas and the subdivision of courtyards indicate that some of the site's residential quarters became densely built up.

The buildings vary in type. Most common are houses with a large hall flanked by small rooms along both long walls (tripartite houses) or along one of them. Rooms sometimes were added to the short wall. These houses were used for all daily activities and domestic duties, except for preparing meals. The main room was lived in or sometimes also used for storage, along with small chambers. Less common are large halls that open onto inner courtyards through two or three doors in one long wall (one-hall buildings). This long wall was usually remarkably thick. Rooms with one entrance on the long wall near the corner were probably used as workshops or food preparation or storage areas. They are monocellular or surround a courtyard. Multicellular buildings without a main room are scarce. Sometimes several buildings formed a domestic unit. The most important estates consisted of one tripartite house and two one-hall buildings. Sometimes the outline of buildings has the 3:4:5 proportion of the Pythagorean triangle. The settlement was at first unfortified but later was surrounded by a city wall. Parts of this 3-meter-thick wall were uncovered to the north and to the west. Eight towers or bastions protect the northern front, twenty-nine are still preserved on the western front, as well as two gates. The central buildings at Tell Qannas were, next to the large storage areas, two tripartite houses and a one-hall building whose dimensions (approximately 13.6–17.2 × 9.6–15.7 m) are greater than comparable buildings in the settlement.

Handicrafts in Habuba Kabira (South) included a recycling workshop for stone objects and a metal workshop. There was, in particular, evidence of lead processing—along with copper—pieces of oxide, which are residuals of cupellation for separating silver from lead ores. Kilns for pottery were outside the settlement. Apart from ceramics, the small finds include a wide spectrum of stone, terra-cotta, and copper objects. Worthy of mention are large stone vessels, amulets and cylinder seals, copper axes, pins and fishhooks, tokens and sealed clay tablets, bullae, and door locks.

The principle source of meat was domesticated animals and, to a lesser extent, wild animals and fish. It is difficult to prove this on the basis of the fish bones because they may be poorly preserved. Much more beef was consumed than smaller ruminants (according to Angela von den Driesch et al.).

Tell Habuba Kabira is an irregular, oval mound approximately 230 m in diameter and with 9 m of settlement debris. Its stratigraphy is numbered according to the largest excavation area, which is in the east. The lowest level, East 1, yielded only Late Uruk sherds. The corresponding building structures must have been placed in the unexcavated center of the mound. Level East 2, which belongs to an earlier phase of the Early Bronze Age, revealed a small settlement with living areas and workshops near each other and a unified outer boundary. Four radiocarbon dates for the burnt level in level East 3 range from 2900–2690 BCE to 2860–2520 BCE (calibrated). The settlement's exterior, with a gate in the east, was continuously reinforced so as to serve as a protective wall. In level East 8, a protective forecourt with a well was built in front of this gate. The courtyard was enclosed in level East 9 with a building, in all probability a temple, consisting of two broad rooms with gates in the central axes. A road paved with stones led to the entrance from the river. Fire and flood brought about the end of the East 9 level. One radiocarbon dating indicates the period from 2870 to 2510 BCE (calibrated).

In level East 10, a long temple with an open porch was erected in the northeast. In the following level, the temple was reinforced and an entrance was installed in one of the antae. Carbonized beams from the temple (level East 12) were dated to 2290–2040 BCE (calibrated). In level East 13, the settlement was extended east with a wall 2.8 m thick. The wall had been rebuilt several times in East 15 and reached a thickness of 3 m and a minimum height of 6 m. The buildings within, apart from the temple, were residential in character. The temple can be followed as far as level East 17, in which small houses covered the summit of the mound. This level and the following ones, up to the most recent Middle Bronze Age level, East 20, were badly disturbed by Islamic period graves.

From the small finds, it seems as if the economy of Tell Habuba Kabira was based on stone and metal processing. Molds and a hoard of bronze objects including fragments of plano-convex ingots are worthy of mention. In addition jewelry and ceramics were produced. The inhabitants kept cattle, sheep, and goats. Over time, the percentage of cattle diminished; in the Middle Bronze Age, sheep and goats predominated, which can be taken as evidence of the impoverishment of the grazing land. Game included onagers and gazelles. Donkeys have been shown to have existed at the site in the Early Bronze Age and horses in the Middle Bronze Age (according to Reinhard Ziegler).


  • Finet, André, ed. “Lorsque la royauté descendit du ciel…” Les fouilles belges du Tell Kannâs sur l'Euphrate en Syrie. Morlanwelz, 1982. Excavations at Tell Qannas.
  • Strommenger, Eva. “Ausgrabungen der Deutschen Orient-Gesellschaft in Habuba Kabira.” In Archeological Reports from the Tabqa Dam Project—Euphrates Valley, Syria, edited by David Noel Freedman, pp. 63–78. Annual of the American Schools of Oriental Research, 44. Ann Arbor, Mich., 1979. Preliminary report; some results need revision.
  • Strommenger, Eva. “The Chronological Division of the Archaic Levels of Uruk-Eanna VI to III/II: Past and Present.” American Journal of Archaeology 84 (1980): 479–487. Habuba Kabira (South) and chronological problems.
  • Strommenger, Eva. Habuba Kabira, eine Stadt vor 5000 Jahren: Ausgrabungen der Deutschen Orient-Gesellschaft am Euphrat in Habuba Kabira, Syrien. Sendschrift der Deutschen Orient-Gesellschaft, 12 Mainz, 1980. Preliminary report, in need of revision.
  • Strommenger, Eva, and Kay Kohlmeyer, eds. Ausgrabungen in Habuba Kabira, vol. 1, Habuba-Tall, Architektur (Kohlmeyer); vol. 2, Habuba-Tall, Kleinfunde (Strommenger et al.); vol. 3, Habuba-Süd, Architektur (Kohlmeyer and Wido Ludwig); vol. 4, Habuba-Süd, Kleinfunde (Strommenger et al.). Final reports, including the quoted results of researches on radiocarbon dates by Günter Kohl and Jochen Görsdorf, animals at Habuba Kabira (South) by Angela von den Driesch et al., and animals at Tell Habuba Kabira by Reinhard Ziegler.
  • van Loon, Maurits N. The Tabqa Reservoir Survey, 1964. Damas, 1967.

Kay Kohlmeyer